8 Aug 2014

Tactica Astra Militarum - Regimental Specialists

Greetings ladies and gentlemen and welcome to another addition for my long-running Astra Militarum Tactica series! The day has finally come to review the Regimental Specialists, three incredibly cheap characters that can serve almost any force well with their low cost and powerful support abilities. While none of them are great at doing any real damage on their own, their methods of war operate similarly to other Astra Militarum characters in that they make your otherwise imprecise squads far more efficient on the field of battle. May the Emperor and the Codex: Imperator guide your forces to victory!

Regimental Specialists


Ministorum Priest - While some might say that Codex: Adepta Sororitas gave us fair warning of what this unit was about to become, I don't think anyone really anticipated just how amazing Ministorum Priests would be in a codex with huge infantry squads like the Astra Militarum. Gripped by religious fervor and inspiring their fellow warriors to similar acts of faith in the Emperor's eyes, the Ministorum Priest provides the codex with what could be classed a superior competitor to the Commissar and Lord Commissar. This is because the basic role of a Ministorum Priest is to prevent his or her attached unit from ever retreating by conferring the Zealot special rule upon them, combining Fearless with Hatred to act as the Astra Militarum equivalent to a Chaplain at almost a quarter of the cost. It is amusing then that the Ministorum Priest is actually an incredibly competitive choice but the Chaplain is not given the latter could be deemed the staple and forerunner of the Zealot rule, but that is a discussion for another time.

While giving Hatred to a unit of between thirty to fifty Guardsmen or Conscripts is more of a nice combat buff that won't always see use due to the high amount of purely ranged armies in the meta, Fearless is almost too good to be true on such a cheap model for an army that can often rely upon gigantic amounts of low Leadership infantry. The only two weaknesses a Guardsmen "blob" has is a vulnerability to morale checks or Pinning and a lack of mobility; the latter is insignificant with the amount of firepower a unit can put out, and the former can now be easily and cheaply fixed by either a Commissar or Ministorum Priest. While Summary Execution is a perfectly good alternative to Fearless because it allows the unit to go to ground or flee from a combat it can't physically win, the risk of losing an important model to it is a pretty major downside especially in a unit that will likely feature one or more Heavy Weapons teams. This is why many will prefer the blanket Fearless a Ministorum Priest provides as it means the unit will stay where you need them to and suffer no drawbacks to doing so.

What also has many leaning towards Ministorum Priests over standard Commissars is the enhanced profile of the former, featuring a weaker combat profile but having a 4+ invulnerable save for defence instead of a paltry 5+ armour save. Even with only one wound, having fifty other models to cut through assuming you stick him or her in a blob means that outside of Sniper weapons and Barrage weapons a Ministorum Priest will be quite difficult to pick out, and ignoring half of the wounds inflicted on the Priest gives some great protection when those weapons find their mark. Besides this a Ministorum Priest also offers unique melee-centric buffs in the form of War Hymms, prayers to the Emperor that bestow His strength upon the Priests' attached unit. These are inconsistent and unreliable given that they are based off of a Leadership test using the Priests' value of seven but they are nonetheless very nice little abilities like re-rolling failed saves or re-rolling to wound on a unit-wide level that give the Priest even more value over a Commissar. Ultimately any army list featuring a blob squad or Conscript unit of any note needs either Commissars or Ministorum Priests for each individual unit, where Priests are undoubtedly the superior option and well worth every point spent on them.

Primaris Psyker - While the new Psychic Phase rules may at first seem to be a big improvement for cheap casters such as a Primaris Psyker, the reality is that they are far less reliable at casting powers and will be completely shut out by a warp charge spam Grey Knights or Tzeentch Daemons army. Going from casting amazing blessings such as Prescience on Leadership 9 with a characteristic test to having to roll two 4+ rolls from at least two D6 has neutered the efficiency of the Primaris Psyker, especially seeing as the maximum potential warp charges a single Astra Militarum detachment can generate is a mediocre seven (before the D6 roll). When casting Prescience requires three or four warp charge points to have some kind of guarantee and the warp charge pool for Astra Militarum has a relatively low threshold, taking Primaris Psykers just as cheap providers of re-rolls is no longer a truly viable option. This also significantly increases the value of taking the Psychic Mastery Level 2 upgrade as that extra warp charge can prove pivotal even just for getting powers off with a mere warp charge cost of one.

Still, I would be lying if I described a Primaris Psyker as anything but a cheap and useful psychic character with access to some of the best disciplines available. While Divination may not be the "easy" option anymore due to the severely reduced chances of successfully using Prescience, the other powers are still very useful while Telepathy and Biomancy provide some significant defensive benefits for crucial points-intensive units - such as blobs or Tank Commander squadrons. Defensively a Primaris Psyker doesn't compare too well to a Librarian and value wise most of his or her appeal came from being a cheap Divination caster, but generally speaking psykers want to stay out of combat anyway so questions of value in combat are less important. What you have then is a cheap Leadership 9 character with two Toughness 3 wounds and a 5+ invulnerable save which is decent by Astra Militarum standards. Heck, three attacks base when counting the two melee weapons made with a Force Weapon at Weapon Skill 4 and Initiative 3 can surprise opponents and have a small chance of killing an important model, especially with so many challenge "monkeys" in the form of Sergeants. They are cheap and worth their points but I will warn players that these are not as generally useful as they used to be, especially against a psychic-heavy list such as Grey Knights.

Enginseer - With 7th Edition providing some massive boosts to the majority of vehicles in the game - open-topped transports excepted - it naturally comes as no surprise that the value of models that can repair said engines of war has increased significantly. While no codex - the Astra Militarum included - could ever hope to match the Iron Hands for just outright ignoring vehicle damage, the capacity to take three Enginseers per detachment at such a low cost does allow the Emperors' Armoured Fist to keep vehicles running at peak efficiency better than most other armies. While an Enginseer is as effective at repairing vehicles as most other Techmarine equivalents, that he or she is so inexpensive while packing on a very nice secondary ability makes them one of the best of their kind without a doubt. Repairing vehicles on a 5+ is one thing, but conferring Power of the Machine Spirit on a single vehicle within 12" at the start of the friendly shooting phase is another entirely - and the only cost is the sacrifice of shooting a laspistol (oh woe is me!) or throwing a grenade. This can be used either to grant a form of Split Fire to a vehicle squadron - like shooting an Executioner Cannon at one squad but diverting the plasma cannon sponsons to another unit - or just to allow a squad to shoot a weapon at full Ballistic Skill they normally wouldn't be able to.

The rules clarify that this cannot be used to allow a tank to fire an Ordnance weapon and another weapon both at full Ballistic Skill, but for a Hydra or Wyvern it could be so that the tank can reposition 6" or more and still fire a weapon (or both) at full Ballistic Skill. While the latter use of this ability is limited, the former is certainly great for maximizing the damage output of vehicle squadrons popularized by the Astra Militarum. It bears mentioning that an Enginseer has a 3+ armour save but only a single wound at Toughness 3, meaning they also need defence from some "bodyguards" - whether they be Servitors or Guardsmen. Don't let the power axe and melee profile of the servo arm deceive you though, an Enginseer does not belong in combat and two Strength 4 AP2 Unwieldy attacks, while decent, aren't really worth sacrificing a highly useful support character for mechanized army lists. As for Servitors, they are cheap enough and warrant an inclusion if you want to guarantee your repair rolls work but will leave an Enginseer vulnerable due to their lack of models and poor defensive stats despite the price of each model. Try to hide such a unit behind a Leman Russ squadron or super heavy - the bigger the better with repair attempts - and use the lack of mobility from the former to keep in pace even with more aggressive variants such as the Demolisher. Both units are cheap enough to fit into any mechanized Astra Militarum list at the expense of something as cheap as a Chimera or Wyvern, and they are certainly worthwhile to such lists if only to guarantee one more devastating salvo from a Leman Russ Executioner.

Best Uses

Ministorum Priest - There's little doubt as to which units this amazing model was designed for, a list that includes but is not limited to combined Infantry squads, Conscripts, Bullgryns, Heavy Artillery Carriages and Ogryns. Basically any unit that is a huge investment of points like a Bullgryn wall or infantry blob requires either Fearless or Summary Execution to remove their key Leadership issues; thankfully for the Astra Militarum this is easily done with models as incredibly cheap as the Ministorum Priest. Whether it is a unit that is used more aggressively (like a Bullgryn wall) or merely sits back and provides heavy firepower (like an infantry blob) the Ministorum Priest is a great addition just for Zealot alone, regardless of how useful the War Hymms can be. Situate them either towards the back and in the middle of a squad to protect them both from the shooting of deployed units and from deep striking units.

Primaris Psyker - Much like any of the supporting cast for the Astra Militarum, a Primaris Psyker needs to be kept under constant protection by an attached squad given their fragility and lack of any real damage output save for some light melee punch. Leadership 9 works just fine in a Heavy Weapons Team and gives the Primaris Psyker a good vantage point to cast psychic powers from, but this does come at the cost of survivability and an advanced position for shorter ranged abilities. I still maintain that these kinds of characters are perfectly suited to a combined Infantry Squad or Conscript squad due to the sheer number of models opponents need to cut through to get at the important unit buffers. It is important to note though that a Primaris Psyker does not provide the crucial immunity to fleeing that a Commissar or Ministorum Priest provides and thus should be taken alongside one of those in a blob unit, not singly. I recommend taking the extra Psychic Mastery Level on the Primaris Psyker as the extra power and warp charge point are easily worth the points, and I find that Divination and Telepathy are the most widely applicable psychic disciplines for a heavily infantry-based gun-line army like the Astra Militarum.

Enginseer - Your first priority should be which of your vehicles are both the most valuable and the most likely to see constant pressure from your opponent, usually meaning Leman Russ squadrons or a Baneblade variant. Your artillery tanks should be hiding due to their fragility and ability to fire indirectly, and vehicles such as Chimeras or Hellhounds are either inexpensive enough or too mobile to not warrant an Enginseers' attention. You can feasibly hide an Enginseer solo behind one of these tanks and only ever worry about attacks from outflanking, deep striking or mobile units in addition to the seemingly unavoidable barrage weapons, though I do prefer to take a few Servitors per Enginseer to boost the repair rolls at the very least. The nice aspect to an Enginseer is that he or she never has to expose themselves to the enemy for their abilities to function at full effectiveness which means an opponent would actually have to dedicate something like a barrage weapon - which usually doesn't come cheap, mind - to be rid of them. If firepower is expended to kill the Enginseer and not the tank(s) they are repairing then, while not the most optimal outcome, at the very least the escort vehicles should have a greater chance of surviving until the next turn. The beauty of Enginseers is that they and their Servitor escorts are ridiculously cheap and are highly effective in a mechanized list, though it obviously could be argued that merely purchasing more tanks might be a more efficient approach.

And that's all folks! I am eager to hear of your experiences with any or all of the three Regimental Specialists as certainly they have been gifted with great buffs with which to assist your standard Guardsmen and Battle Tanks. Each of these choices are very useful either generally or in one of the two common Astra Militarum army list builds, giving you the flexibility to choose which one will be most effective in any given circumstances. Thanks for taking the time to read this article and have a very nice day!


  1. I usually take one Enginseer just because of PotMS. For a low points cost, you gain the ability to have one of your important AV12 artillery tanks (especially the Manticore) fire its main weapon although it's been shaken or stunned.

  2. I stumbled across your blog after reading your AM article series on BOLS and am greatly enjoying rereading the entire series. One note: unfortunately Primaris Psykers don't have access to Telepathy (unless I am missing an FAQ).

  3. I have to ask- where did you find tje ruling that PotMS doesnt override the Ordnance rule? This has bedeviled our gaming group :^